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Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science
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Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  327 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
How does science work? Does it tell us what the world is "really" like? What makes it different from other ways of understanding the universe? In Theory and Reality, Peter Godfrey-Smith addresses these questions by taking the reader on a grand tour of one hundred years of debate about science. The result is a completely accessible introduction to the main themes of the phi ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 2003)
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Aug 14, 2014 Paul rated it liked it
This was a letdown, in that it was sold to me (by a book about the philosophy of science as applied specifically to geology) as a great introduction to the current state of philosophy of science, but seems as if writing such a broad survey tired its author. In some ways, the earlier chapters are better, because there were fewer workers in the field and it's easier to write a coherent narrative--in my own field, geology, this would be just as true. On the other hand, the early chapters are where ...more
Richard Houchin
Sep 18, 2008 Richard Houchin rated it liked it
Shelves: hard-science
This book is to be commended for its brevity! It covers the history of the philosophy of science swiftly, which makes the tedious bits bearable.

I'm astounded the author actually takes the time to give a fair hearing and explanation of the stupid 'theories' that deny objective reality.

Like the 'philosophy' that we can't know anything about anything because we can't prove causality exists.

Or the 'observation' that because everything we experience is an experience, we can therefore never know anyt
Mike Thicke
I read Theory and Reality primarily with an eye toward using it as a teaching text. I have previously used Godfrey-Smith's chapter on Popper in an introductory history and philosophy of science course and I found it to be a balanced and accessible introduction to Popper's ideas. Overall, this characterization applies to the rest of the book as well, and I think it would serve as a good text to build an undergraduate course around. However, I do have some reservations about the text, especially i ...more
Andrew John Pixton
Feb 09, 2015 Andrew John Pixton rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
Ah, epistemology. This was slow but interesting read. He does level it down for simpler folk but it's still heavy mostly due to the subject. Epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge, what is it and how do we get it. There's also some philosophy of language and metaphysics but mostly it talks about the methodology of science. What is science? Can it really tell us anything about the universe around us? How is it filtered or influenced by human minds? And so on.

It was instructive if a little d
Jun 10, 2012 Luke rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A wonderful introduction. Much covered in little time in accessable language.
Godfrey-Smith doea not succeed either at hiding his bias or making it clear, but rarely does it result in a misrepresented view.
Feb 03, 2016 Ac rated it really liked it
really good book, excellent introduction to ppl who dont know a thing about the philosophy of science. books starts out in the days of the scientific revolution and moves forward chronologically. this helps the reader understand concepts and to put things into perspective. godfrey-smith covers the different theories and issues and conflicting views in a clear and concise manner. also made me think of stuff i never really cared about before, which i probably wont care about in the future but it i ...more
Ken Gloeckner
Jul 22, 2014 Ken Gloeckner rated it liked it
While thought provoking and enlightening in parts, the author's writing style perhaps was more laborious than it needed to be. Instead of cutting to the chase, the author approached some subjects in a roundabout way. Additionally, some issues were given too much attention while other, more seemingly important and profound topics, were less well covered. Absent from the entirety of the book is any substantial discussion on the significant differences between the social and physical sciences and t ...more
Apr 05, 2013 J.P. rated it it was ok
I'm not entirely sure how to feel about this book. It was well written but it spent more time telling you what science is not as opposed to what it is. It did go into great detail about the history of various schools of thought within the realm of science in regards to evaluating the information we have at our disposal & what to make of it. Perhaps, I was expecting more of this book, expecting something from it that it wasn't supposed to give. My goal was to gain a better understanding of wh ...more
Clifton Knox
Nov 28, 2015 Clifton Knox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is book is a mind opening experience on the subject of science.

This book takes the reader far from the almost mystical like admiration taught in popular culture. It shows us that science is both objective and at times subjective. As the title implies, when it comes to how science is conducted there is "theory and then there is reality". If you are interested to know what science really is then this is your book.
Mar 12, 2014 Eric rated it liked it
Decent read; explained in clear a few of the various schools of thought of philosophy of science. I didn't like however that PGS only revealed his personal view until the end, which, had he discussed at the beginning of the book, would have given me a lens through which I could have read the whole thing.
Ryan Travis
Apr 20, 2014 Ryan Travis rated it it was amazing
A good and easy introduction to the philosophy of science. In addition to his clear presentation of topics, Godfrey-Smith's commentary makes the book worthwhile for beginners and non-beginners alike.
Apr 09, 2012 Mister rated it really liked it
This book covers quite a bit of material and definitely sets up a nice groundwork for a general understanding of the philosophy of science. Godfrey-Smith was thoughtful in organizing the book chronologically and providing suggestions to the reader if they desired to read it thematically instead. Theories are presented in detail, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Godfrey-Smith's positions leak through unashamedly, too, but he does well in defending them and not allowing them to divert th ...more
Jeffrey Backlin
Mar 15, 2014 Jeffrey Backlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
A great intro into the problems and difficulties of the scientific method, theory generation and thought.
Joeri Kooimans
Jan 23, 2016 Joeri Kooimans rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Good introduction on the philosophy of science, and also very accessible.
Dawn Ang
Mar 17, 2012 Dawn Ang rated it really liked it
Read selected chapters for an Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science course. Excellent introduction with a clear, engaging narrative voice--not dry like most other textbooks. A list of recommended further reading is included in the end of every chapter. Great for anyone interested in learning about the early history of the philosophy of science.
May 22, 2012 DragonRider rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, philosophy
As a person interested in both science and philosophy, I have read a half-dozen philosophies of science, and this is one of the best introductions from the traditional approach, primarily because the author writes in a manner that is clear and easy to follow. The only one I like better is Reading the Book of Nature, by Peter Kosso.
Joe Rowan
Jan 13, 2013 Joe Rowan rated it liked it
Read this mostly as background knowledge for my course, but it was engaging, clear and interesting so not too much of a pain to read. I also feel I have a better grounding in philosophy of science, so I can't ask for much more really.
Abby Jean
Aug 19, 2013 Abby Jean rated it really liked it
Shelves: phd-yr-1, 2013
good, solid introduction to the philosophy of science. sometimes unclear whether it was a general overview or an argument for the author's pet theories. i benefited from discussing it with others as i read it.
Josh Paul
Feb 13, 2008 Josh Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Decent introduction to philosophy of science. Fairly clear, easy to read, GS doesn't hide his opinions on things, but he generally gives his interlocutors a fair voice as well.
Alexi Parizeau
Feb 01, 2016 Alexi Parizeau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really broadened my perspective on science and epistemology. Loved the clear writing style and the 'Further Reading' recommendations at the end of each chapter.
Nov 16, 2008 Jake added it
Recommends it for: Ph.D. students
Recommended to Jake by: course syllabus
Overview of different schools of thought in the philosophy of science. Godfrey-Smith is an excellent and engaging writer who doesn't try to conceal his point of view.
Adnan Ali
Sep 29, 2011 Adnan Ali rated it really liked it
I still don't think I understand anything, though.
Jun 17, 2008 Kevin rated it really liked it
A satisfying introduction to the thought behind Science.
Aug 04, 2011 Renae added it
my brain is scrambled eggs.
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I am currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center, CUNY (City University of New York), and Professor of History and Philosophy of Science (half-time) at the University of Sydney.

I grew up in Sydney, Australia. My undergraduate degree is from the University of Sydney, and I have a PhD in philosophy from UC San Diego. I taught at Stanford University between 1991 and 2003, a
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“Most ambitiously, some feminist epistemologists have argued that even our fundamental concepts of reason, evidence, and truth are covertly sexist. Feminist epistemology also goes beyond criticism to make suggestions about reform-how to make science better at finding out about the world (if that goal is to be retained), and also how to make science more socially responsible.” 0 likes
“Longino argues that in order to be able to distinguish rationality from irrationality we should take the social group as our basic unit. Science is rational to the extent that it chooses theories from a diverse pool of options reflecting different points of view, and makes its choice via a critical dialogue that reaches consensus without coercion. Diversity in the ideas in the pool is facilitated by diversity in the backgrounds of those participating in the discussion. Epistemology becomes a field that tries to distinguish good community-level procedures from bad ones.” 0 likes
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